The Sanskaari Chief has left the building. Appointed in 2015, the ex-Censor Board Chief didn’t get to complete his full term, but his tenure has been anything but unremarkable. Whether you loved him (?) or hated him, he made sure that ignoring him wasn’t an option. Born to create news, even his sacking makes for front page stuff.
Below is an excerpt from a fictional interview that he gave to me in my sleep. He was still the CBFC Chairperson back then, and on waking up I was disappointed that it had all been a dream. Nevertheless, I jotted it down. Remember, this was given when he was still the Chairperson, and rumours of his dismissal had been just that, rumours.
We met at his home, or it could have been the sets of a Sooraj Barjatya film.
Kanishka: First thing first. Great job done -
Pahlaj Nihalani: (interrupts) Thank you. A lot of people are unable to appreciate my efforts to cleanse the country of unethical, un-sanskaari, anti-national elements. But such is the path of the righteous man. I may be criticised, ridiculed, and even removed from my position, but I will continue to do my duty.
Uh, I was actually about to say, great job done on assuming the position of the de facto moral police Head of the country and forcing your opinions down the throats of movie goers.
Thank you again. As I often tell everyone, it's a thankless job, but someone's got to do it. If nobody stands up, someone has to, no? What will the new generation grow up watching and learning? When we were young, we used to read books - stories, badly written, terrible print quality, couldn't tell if they were photos or drawings...often second hand and dirty. But look at the youth of today...they have videos, on tv, computer, phone. Accessible instantly. Is it fair? You tell me. You only tell me.
I am not sure what you are talking about.
Never you mind that. The point is, our job is to keep things that are meant to stay inside the bedroom, inside the bedroom and off cinema screens.
You have also censored words from movies, perhaps going overboard.
Let me explain the rationale behind this. Once I do, you will agree how noble and farsighted I am. You see, the kids these days, they don't socialise much. Agreed?
Now, back in my, or for that matter, your days, where did we learn cuss words from?
Friends, I suppose.
Exactly. But these little innocent flowers - the generation that we will pass on the torch of greatness to, they don't have any real friends! They are learning everything from the movies. You see, by blocking out the abuses and dirty words from the movies, we are forcing them to socialise, to go out, to figure out the words. This will in turn build friendships and unity, will galvanise them to stand together in times of need. I love children. They are the fuel for this nation. They need to, they need to-
No. They need to step up and start mingling. Just not with the opposite gender of course.
I see. But what about blocking words from movies that are A rated already? I mean, I watched 'Deadpool', and half the dialogues were muted out. I had to second-guess the jokes based on lip-reading.
Hmmm. That is indeed worrying, we will have to blur out the lips from now on then.
No, nooo. What did we adults do to deserve this?
You are adults. Why do you need to hear abuses? Mazaa aata hai gaali sunne mein ?
Thoda bahut. But what about that 'intercourse' dispute? You asked for 1 lakh votes, and the channel got them. But you went back on your word...
[Moves to the corner of the room and refuses eye contact]
I guess we can't discuss that.
You beep beep beep beep...I specifically told you not to bring that up.
Calm down sir, did you just say beep beep beep? Literally, beep beep beep beep?
Yes, I was exercising what they call in the west, self-censorship. You see, I practice what I preach.
Speaking of the west, you censored a kissing scene between Daniel Craig and Monica Bellucci from Spectre. Was it necessary, considering that the audience and Bollywood have matured to such kind of content?
Just a kiss!? Let me make it clear, what Monica bhabhi and Mr Daniel did in the movie was unpardonable. Unimaginable. Un-
Listen you handsome devil#, don't try to act smart with me. I have said this before and I will say it again, this is India. What works outside doesn't work here, and what works here doesn't work outside. We are a lot like the ambassador car in that way.
Quite up-to-date I see. Anyway, you have mentioned earlier that you feel the content on television programs and the internet should also be subject to prior checks.
Yes. We are working on a proposal right now. You see - children are like, like, computers. They are impressionable. And the filth they show on the TV and internet are like viruses. And I am......Kaspersky.
[Looks pleased with himself].
Are you by any chance talking about Pehredaar Piya Ki?
No, but that sounds interesting. Who is Piya? Who is the Pehredaar? How do they meet? Tell me all about it.
Maybe later. Your appointment and some of your decisions have not gone down too well with the industry. Does that hurt?
Yes. But it's a meetha dard, it's a sign that I am doing my job well. My friends have always known that I am a man of strong principles; when you deal with PN in professional capacity, you forget that I am your friend.
Who are your friends from the industry? Let me guess, Alok Nath?
Very funny. But yes, he was a friend, but then he appeared in that ad, you know, the, the, anti smoking ad. And they showed Sunny Leone in it. So, I have stopped talking to him.
You are aware, that films such as ‘La La Land’, ‘xXx : Return of Xander Cage’ and ‘Office Christmas Party’ have had portions removed.
Of course, I am aware, it is my job to be aware. See, if you use bad words, drink alcohol, or refer to things not acceptable in our society, be prepared for cuts and beeping.
I would just like to point out; in XXX you cut a scene where Vin Diesel is drinking Cranberry juice. His character in the film is a teetotaller –
See, there is a scope for confusion. Who knows, if it was actually cranberry juice or alcohol. If I can get confused, everyone can. Understanding?
Yes, in’ La La Land’, you censored the word ‘pitch’, I imagine that you misheard it as bit-
(Interrupts) Don’t say bad words. Again, if I misheard it, so can the others na?
What about ‘Office Christmas Party’?
No need. We celebrate Diwali. Last time we did celebrate Christmas, I became Secret Santa to everyone in the department. I suspect it was all planned. Yeh sab nahin chalega. I will fire them.
No, no. I meant the movie, ‘Office Christmas Party’.
Oh, that one. Again, they were saying bad words. A word that rhymes with..(thinks) ‘Kill Do’, and another that rhymes with (thinks)(thinks) (thinks) Terminator.
[He proceeds to write in a notepad the words ‘Dildo’ and ‘Vibrator’ and shows me the same. He then tears the page off and sets it on fire].
But Sir, here is the thing. In the film, the word ‘dildo’ is muted out, only to reappear later in the same conversation, less than 3 seconds later. In the same film, the phrase ‘one second’ was also muted, presumably by accident.*
^%$^ch## %$^%$^&& . Tu $ ^^%$^%$
Siiiir! What happened to self-censorship?
Self-censorship gaya ***** ki *** *****. GET OUT.
Last question sir, last question. Please. There are rumours that you may be replaced very soon. Your opinion on the same.
Let them talk. Everybody knows the kind of work that I am doing here. The kind of work I have done in the last couple of years. I have even bigger plans, revised guidelines. I have faith in the government. It will take the right decision. So I have hope.
Us too, Sir, us too.
# - Come on it was a dream.
* - This really happened. Read the article http://www.hindustantimes.com/hollywood/pahlaj-nihalani-i-don-t-see-a-single-movie-that-comes-for-certification/story-DGJeR5sB4ke0Jcrz0HWvKP.html.